Learning About Religion

Religion is a complex and diverse topic that has many different beliefs and practices. Some of the ways to learn about religion include studying religious texts, attending religious events and having conversations with people from other faiths. Learning about religion is not easy, but it can be rewarding and exciting.

The term religion has always been used to describe the various ways that man acknowledges his dependence on a free, supernatural Being (or Beings). On its subjective side it calls into play the emotions and intellect; on its objective side it is the voluntary acknowledgment of this dependency by means of acts of homage. The recognition of dependence gives rise to desire for Divine help, which is in itself a motive of pious obedience. The belief that in friendly communion with the Deity he may find aid, peace and happiness encourages hope; and the conviction that he can secure this end through a moral standard of behavior encourages conformity.

In other words, religious devotion aims at the perfection of the individual. This desire, crudely conceived in lower religions, motivates adherence to moral standards; but in the higher forms of religion the recognition that man is already perfect motivates a search for spiritual bliss, which is also, as we have seen, a motive for obedience.

Belief in disembodied spirits, cosmological orders and other supernatural phenomena are not the whole of religion; it is a way of life that includes rituals, ethics and community. In the early twentieth century, scholars began to use a different definition of religion that dropped the notion of an unusual reality and focused on the distinctive role that religion can play in human life. This approach is called a functional definition.

Among the functions that a religion can play are providing guidance in ethical matters, social control, emotional stability and practical assistance. Religions have often founded educational institutions and hospitals; they have provided the backbone of many social welfare networks around the world. Religions also give believers a sense of belonging and identity through common rituals, customs and shared beliefs.

For those who are interested in a particular religion, reading the Holy Book or Books of that religion can be very helpful. It will give a more in depth look at the faith and how it is practiced. It is also important to have conversations with people of a different faith and learn about their culture as well.

The study of religion is a difficult and time consuming task, but one that is well worth it. It is a fascinating and exciting subject that is full of many interesting topics to learn about. However, it is important to avoid stipulative definitions of religion as they are not always accurate and can lead to unnecessarily narrow viewpoints. A polythetic definition is a better choice as it recognizes more than one property that are “common” or even “typical” of religions, without necessarily being essential. The stipulative definitions often reflect an ethnocentric view of religion and are therefore problematic.